Post-doctoral Researcher | tharter@ucsd.edutill harter

I am a Comparative Physiologist with wide-ranging interests in vertebrate and aquatic biology. The overarching question of my research is how physiological mechanisms at the level of the red blood cell facilitate organismal homeostasis in vertebrates, which I address through hypothesis driven experiments on model fish species. Specifically, my research aims to uncover the molecular mechanisms of oxygen and acid-base sensing in red blood cells and the cellular signalling pathways that allow red blood cells to modulate cardiovascular gas transport over a broad range of environmental and metabolic conditions. Findings from my research will advance our fundamental understanding of cellular and cardio-respiratory physiology in vertebrates and can be applied broadly to address timely questions in marine conservation, aquatic toxicology, aquaculture, and animal and human health.


I am originally from Germany, where I completed a BSc in Agricultural Sciences at Hohenheim University. I obtained an MSc in Aquaculture and Fisheries at Wageningen University in The Netherlands and at Ghent University in Belgium, where I worked on freshwater fish osmoregulation. This work sparked in me an interest in the field of comparative physiology, which led to a move to Vancouver, where I completed my PhD with Dr. Colin Brauner at UBC in 2018. During my PhD, I studied the cardio-respiratory system of bony fishes and how these animals can modulate the oxygen binding characteristics of their pH-sensitive hemoglobin to increase cardiovascular oxygen transport. While whole animal work is still at the core of my research interests, after my PhD, I decided to broaden my expertise and study the molecular pathways that allow animals to modulate oxygen transport in vivo. I joined the Tresguerres lab as a post-doctoral fellow in January 2019, where I’m funded through an NSF grant (#1754994). The focus of my work is on the role of putative, cellular acid-base (e.g. sAC) and oxygen sensing molecules in regulating hemoglobin function by actively adjusting the red blood cell intracellular environment. Hemoglobin is perhaps the most extensively studied protein today and critically important for vertebrate life as we know it. However, in lower vertebrates, and especially fishes, recent work has unveiled novel cellular pathways that may actively regulate hemoglobin function in vivo. If substantiated more broadly, these pathways may change our understanding of how vertebrates transport oxygen in their blood. The research outcomes will be critical for assessing the risks of environmental change on fishes, aquatic ecosystems and human economic activities that depend on them.

Selected Publications:

Harter T. S., Damsgaard C., Regan M. D. (2022). Linking environmental salinity to respiratory phenotypes and metabolic rate in fishes: a data mining and modelling approach. Invited Review. J. Exp. Biol. 225, jeb243421.

Harter, T. S., Clifford, A. M., Tresguerres, M. (2021) Adrenergically induced translocation of red blood cell β-adrenergic sodium-proton exchangers has ecological relevance for hypoxic and hypercapnic white seabass. Am. J. Physiol. Regul. Integr. Comp. Physiol.

Harter T. S., Zanuzzo F. S., Supuran C. T., Gamperl A. K. and Brauner C. J. (2019). The importance of plasma accessible carbonic anhydrase for enhancing tissue oxygen extraction during exercise in Atlantic salmon. Proc. Roy. Soc. B, 286, 1903:20190339.

Harter, T. S., Sackville, M. A., Wilson, J. M., Metzger, D. C. H., Egginton, S., Esbaugh, A. J., Farrell, A. P. and Brauner, C. J. (2018). A solution to Nature’s haemoglobin knockout: a plasma-accessible carbonic anhydrase catalyses CO2 excretion in Antarctic icefish gills. Journal of Experimental Biology 221,.